Refitted for Work
Converting industrial ware- Turning to adaptive use and older building can be a way to
Ten adaptive use and houses, manufacturing facilities, renovation of older structures, snare a prime downtown location.
renovation projects turn train depots, power stations, rather than relying on new con- Adapting old structures is also
and similar building types into struction, can have multiple inherently sustainable: every wall
even unlikely candidates office space for contemporary benefits. Older buildings convey and floor that is reused saves mate-
businesses is not an easy task. a sense of their community’s his- rial resources. In some cases, con-
into modern office space. Even buildings initially designed tory and provide a workplace with tractors, architects, and other real
for office use only a few decades a distinctive identity. Oftentimes, estate professionals have retrofitted
back can be outmoded for the these structures have the kind buildings for their own headquarters
modern workplace, with its of distinctive craftsmanship that as a way to showcase their capa-
emphasis on plenty of natural new construction cannot match. bilities and demonstrate innovative
light, open-plan offices, spaces If the original architecture is approaches to transforming the
that foster the exchange of ideas, undistinguished—or even down- unlikeliest of old structures into
flexible infrastructure for chang- right plain—it can serve as a blank workplaces for the future.
ing needs and technologies, and canvas for creative architectural
strong connections with their sur- intervention. In heavily built-up Ron nyRen is a freelance architecture and urban
rounding contexts. urban environments, reusing an design writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
1. 355 11th Street
San FranciSco, caLiFornia
San Francisco–based general contractor
Matarozzi/Pelsinger Builders decided to
turn a derelict industrial warehouse, des-
ignated a historic resource by the city, into
a multitenant mixed-use building to house
its new headquarters as well as office and
ground-floor commercial space for lease.
The architect, Aidlin Darling Design of San
Francisco, inserted metal and glass aper-
tures into the original structural frame to
provide access points and bring in natural
light. The largest aperture extends as a
bridge across the double-height lobby,
leading to the reception area.
A new perforated metal skin on the east and west facades
blocks solar heat gain, with the small holes enabling cross-
ventilation and daylight penetration while maintaining the
original structure’s industrial character. As night falls, the his-
toric timber frame gradually becomes visible through the perfo-
rations. Original timber was retained or reused on the interior
as well, and sandblasted to add warmth. The building was
completed last year; Gold certification in the U.S. Green Build-
ing Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
(LEED) rating system is pending.
2. Alberici Corporate Headquarters
A metal manufacturing plant in Overland,
Missouri, has found new life as headquarters
for Alberici Corporation, corporate parent of a
variety of construction subsidiaries. One major
challenge facing the designer, Mackey Mitch-
ell Architects of St. Louis, Missouri, was how
to address the building’s southwest orienta-
tion, which made solar control difficult.
The solution was to add a wall of offices
angling out from the building in a sawtooth
fashion so that they face south with extensive glazing, while masonry in 2004, the LEED Platinum–rated building relies on natural ventilation,
walls block low western sunlight. A long outdoor courtyard was inserted under-floor air distribution, an on-site wind turbine, a solar water heat-
into the center of the building. Transforming a portion of the facility into ing system, and on-site stormwater retention and treatment, among
structured parking eliminated the need for surface parking. Completed other sustainable strategies.
3. Arcus Depot
The train stopped coming to the Whistle Stop Depot in Kalamazoo long ago, but
the two-story building is once again a hub of activity. The Arcus Foundation, a non-
profit organization dedicated to social justice and conservation, acquired the 1874
Italianate-style passenger station and accompanying warehouse in 2002 in order to
transform them into workspace for itself and other progressive nonprofit groups.
Cambridge Seven Associates of Cambridge, Massachusetts, drew on historic
photographs and documentation to restore the buildings, preserving features such
as turned-wood canopy columns, decorative brackets, sandstone window sills,
timber trusses, and exterior brickwork. A new 1,500-square-foot (139-sq-m) glass
and steel winter garden inserted between the two older structures serves as a multi-
function space. A closed-loop geothermal system cuts greenhouse gas emissions
while avoiding the need for bulky mechanical equipment, which would have been
visible on the exterior. The revived depot opened in 2005.
4. Christman Building
Balancing the requirements of the LEED rating system with the
preservation standards required to make use of federal tax
credits for historic preservation is a difficult task. In converting
a 1920s insurance building in downtown Lansing into a modern
corporate headquarters for the Christman Company construc-
tion and development firm, Detroit, Michigan–based architect
SmithGroup had to navigate such challenges as preserving
original windows while still ensuring an energy-efficient building
envelope; the solution was to insert a second layer of insulated
windows behind the historic ones.
Prakash Patel PhotograPhy/sMithgrouP
Prakash Patel PhotograPhy/sMithgrouP
SmithGroup reused 92 percent of existing walls, roof, and
floors, preserving historic elements such as limestone detail-
ing, tile, and mica shade light fixtures. Large perimeter win-
dows illuminate almost all occupied spaces, aided by a new
skylit atrium enclosing a former light well. Completed last year,
the building received a LEED Platinum rating for both core and
shell and interiors.
5. Independence Park
Once home to a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) aerospace
manufacturing facility, 160 acres (64.7 ha) in Downey, California, are being redevel-
oped for a variety of uses, including a shopping center, film studios, a park, a science
learning center, and a campus for health care provider Kaiser Foundation Health Plan.
Kaiser brought on Frank R. Webb Architects, Inc., of Los Angeles to make an office
building out of an abandoned aeronautics factory, a basic concrete box type of structure
built during the 1970s with secrecy in mind.
The design team exposed the interior’s
concrete ceilings and columns, replaced
sections of the concrete walls with curtain
wall glazing, and added a two-story interior
courtyard atrium with clerestory windows.
To break up the regularity of columns
Daly architectural PhotograPhy
Daly architectural PhotograPhy
within the open-plan office, the main cir-
culation path cuts diagonally through the
building, and dropped ceilings and sloping
walls add spatial variety. On the exterior,
new curving sunshades and entrance
canopies provide a sculptural quality. The
building was completed in 2004.
6. Ministry of Finance
The hagUe, The neTherLanDS
Erected in 1975, the Ministry of Finance in the Hague is one of the best- courtyards to the outside and adding a two-story glazed winter garden at
known Brutalist-style buildings in the Netherlands. Seeking to renovate the street corner. The second courtyard was covered, with a conference
the structure for modern use while preserving its original character, the center inserted beneath the garden. An aquifer provides thermal energy
Dutch government engaged Consortium Safire of Maarssen, Utrecht, the storage, and the original concrete balconies support a new second
Netherlands, in a public/private partnership to handle design, construc- skin that helps modulate temperatures. Inside, new movable walls and
tion, financing, maintenance, and operations. raised floors allow for flexibility, while the original load-bearing structure
Meyer en Van Schooten Architecten of Amsterdam reconnected the and rough concrete surfaces remain visible. The renovation was com-
building to its surroundings, opening up one of its two inner garden pleted last year.
7. Montgomery Park
In 1925, the Montgomery Ward Catalog House and
Retail Store opened as Baltimore’s largest mer-
cantile building, not far from downtown. Listed on
the National Register of Historic Places, the eight-
story complex became vacant in 1985 until it was
purchased by local developer Himmelrich Associ-
ates, which cleaned up the brownfield site. AECOM
(formerly DMJM), headquartered in Los Angeles,
converted the structure into office space for tenants
such as the Maryland Department of the Environ-
ment, restoring historic features such as doors, large
steel-framed windows, and the art deco exterior.
Completed in 2003, the building offers 143,000-
square-foot (13,285-sq-m) floor plates. New elements
include a health club and daycare center. The former
train shed was repurposed to house a food court
with a skylight and a 500-seat conference facility,
topped by a living roof planted with alpine vegeta- Dan cunninghaM
tion. Other sustainable design features include high-
efficiency mechanical and electrical systems and
on-site stormwater retention.
gary wilson Photo/graPhic
8. RiverEast Center
A dilapidated concrete warehouse in Portland, Oregon, was purchased by Rivers East LLC, a
company formed by Jeff Reaves, president of design firm Group Mackenzie, and Jay Haladay,
president of Coaxis software company, who moved both their companies to the location.
Long vacant, the 1951 Holman Transfer Building had art deco details and elegant interior
columns—as well as a contaminated site, dramatically sloping floors, seismic issues, and
not much in the way of windows.
Group Mackenzie cut windows into the thick concrete and added a double wall of glass
gary wilson Photo/graPhic
to the south side to provide warmth in winter and help cool the building via a rooftop vent
in summer. The LEED Gold–rated project includes a new pedestrian plaza, which opens up
public access to the river, and a stormwater system handling runoff from the building, plaza,
parking lot, and nearby city streets. Opened in 2007, the building also houses several other
businesses and nonprofit organizations.
9. Stockland Headquarters
SyDney, new SoUTh waLeS, aUSTraLia
To bring together the three divisions of Stockland’s property business, the com-
pany relocated its headquarters to a relatively nondescript 1980s office tower
it owned, part of Piccadilly Centre in the central business district of Sydney,
Australia. The building had large floor plates, but they were not well connected
to each other, and Stockland wanted to encourage interaction and a sense of
community among its employees.
In refurbishing eight floors to house the new headquarters, BVN Architecture
of Sydney linked them with a “vertical street”: a wide interconnecting stair
rising through a void on the building’s eastern edge. Visible around the edges
of the void are communal spaces such as meeting rooms, collaboration spaces,
and café benches—destinations to get people moving from floor to floor. High-
performance glazing, cogeneration, extensive natural daylight, and bicycle stor-
age for employees are among the sustainable strategies for the headquarters,
which opened in 2007 and received a six-star Green Star rating from the Green
Building Council of Australia.
john gollings/gollings PhotograPhy
10. Synygy World Headquarters
A former monument to the age of electricity now serves
the digital age. The real estate firm Preferred Unlimited
Inc. of Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, purchased an aban-
doned 1910s-era power station along the Delaware River
in 2000. Blackney Hayes Architects of Philadelphia reno-
vated the historic shell, while the Princeton, New Jersey,
office of RMJM Hillier transformed a substantial portion of
the interior for the anchor tenant, the software develop-
ment company Synygy.
Completed in 2005, the project had to address the
vast turbine hall, with its 100-foot-high (30-m-high)
ceiling; the solution was to insert two freestanding
trapezoidal structures—made of glass, aluminum, and
corrugated polycarbonate to contrast with the historic
shell—that contain a data center, a cafeteria, and
a conference center. The structures’ roofs support
a rooftop plaza, an open patio, and a theater/trade
show area. Workstations are open plan throughout.
Conshohocken-based Buccini/Pollin Group now owns
the building, redubbed the Wharf at Rivertown. UL
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